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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Dogs suffering from osteoarthritis experience a gradual worsening of their condition over time. Although there's no cure for this painful condition, our vets in Chino Hills can offer treatments to manage the symptoms and help your furry friend enjoy a good quality of life as they age.

Osteoarthritis & Your Dog

Did you know that osteoarthritis is a prevalent type of arthritis in dogs? This condition causes a gradual breakdown of the cartilage that assists the movement of their joints, leading to intense pain. Sadly, it is estimated that about 25% of dogs will experience this condition at some point in their lives.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Your dog may exhibit several signs of osteoarthritis caused by joint pain. Look out for these major symptoms:

  • Pain, stiffness, and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
  • Reluctance to stand 
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Unusual aggression, whining, or irritability
  • Licking at joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Although this condition can develop in any breed of dog, it is most often seen in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Rottweilers, and giant breeds. 

The exact cause of osteoarthritis in dogs is not fully understood, but it is commonly linked to previous injuries such as trauma, elbow or hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament injuries, dislocations, and other underlying issues.

Additionally, studies have shown that obesity may also contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in dogs. This is because the extra weight puts excessive pressure on the joints, leading to pain and a gradual weakening of the joint's strength.

Treatments to Help Manage Pain

It is important to note that osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be cured or reversed. The main goal of treatment is to alleviate the pain it causes, slow down the degeneration of the joints, and manage its progression.

This will help ensure that your furry friend can live a comfortable life as they age.

Often several treatments will be used together to achieve pain relief and more comfortable mobility.

Painkillers / Pain Meds

Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment for managing your dog's joint pain and helping to reduce swelling. 


While it may seem a bit counterintuitive, exercise is critical for dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. It may be necessary to cut back on some of their exercise routines when your pup is first diagnosed, but staying mobile will help your dog to keep up their fitness, maintain their weight, and relieve their joint pain. 

Exercise will need to be tailored to your dog's overall health and severity of osteoarthritis. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.


Keeping your dog's weight at a healthy level is crucial in treating their osteoarthritis. Excess weight puts unnecessary strain on your dog's joints, which can increase their pain.

Your vet may suggest a calorie-reduced diet if your dog's exercise level has decreased. Alternatively, they may recommend a diet enriched with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to alleviate symptoms.

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs and can include several treatments that are designed to help reduce pain while strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion, and working to improve overall endurance.

If your dog has osteoarthritis, their rehabilitative therapy may involve several treatments such as laser therapy, regenerative therapy, underwater treadmill and/or pool therapy, massage, and therapeutic exercises. In some cases, medications may also be prescribed to alleviate inflammation associated with the condition.

Ask your vet if there is a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area.


If your dog's joint damage is severe, your vet may suggest surgery to ease their symptoms and prevent the condition from getting worse. Surgery can involve removing bone fragments that may be causing the problem.

The Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

By implementing effective long-term pain management and providing extra care, your furry friend with osteoarthritis can still lead a joyful and prolonged life. Consult with your veterinarian to discover more about how to manage your pup's joint pain and support your dog's happiness for years to come.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Is your dog showing any signs or symptoms of osteoarthritis? Book an appointment for your furry companion with our veterinarians in Chino Hills for a complete assessment. Contact us today!

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TLC Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Chino Hills companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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